Friday, January 03, 2014


The meaning of New Year changes as you age. Nostalgia begins to eclipse anticipation. Astonishment at how long ago everything was predominates. And there is a touch of melancholy in realising that your generation is making way for the next one.

These thoughts were prompted by a post from George Szirtes about retiring from teaching. Education is a simple process over complicated by theorists and George's description is perfect.
Shaw told the world that those who can, do and that those who can't, teach. It was a cruel thing to say. Almost everyone has taught: all the great masters of visual art had their schools, most writers had friends to whom they looked for criticism and advice. That is, in essence, all teaching is. It is a sort of friendship based on common interest within a framework. The friendship may well continue once the framework falls away. It is a human exchange based on curiosity, generosity, wit, and close attention.
I retired this academic year and have not found it easy. I have always enjoyed working and it is strange doing so little formal work. But what George points to is what I really miss; the friendships, transient or otherwise, and the exchanges.

Now contrast Shaw's elitist sneering with the idealism of Elisée Reclus in his essay The Ideal and Youth:
The discoveries of science bring with them happiness so exalted that every mean consideration must degrade them. To know lays upon us the obligation to teach. 
I have to say that I was rather fond of the "mean consideration" of my salary and the pension comes in handy too, but I know what he means. Teaching and learning are both integral to human communications. What time has removed is the framework, opening it to younger ambitions. And so, a new year reminds me of loss, but looks forward to finding a new framework for the human exchange that still obsesses me.

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